Sunday, April 29, 2018

Reconciling Paul: 5th Sunday Easter

You remember the great world-changing story of the conversion of St. Paul. On the road to Damascus, he saw a light and heard the Lord Jesus call him: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He did one of the most impressive and difficult things a person can do: he admitted he was wrong. Not excusably or understandably wrong, not just a little off track, but wrong in a profound and terrible way.  But he encountered the Lord of mercy and knew that the strength of Jesus would shine all the brighter in the weakness of Paul. Best of all, he knew that the Lord’s death and Resurrection had won for him mercy and redemption.

So Paul is now a converted Christian, with a relationship with Jesus Christ and a calling in the Church. But here at the end of Acts 9, we run into the proverbial rest of the story. What about Paul’s relationships with the Church? These will include people he has personally hurt, people who have lived in fear of him and others like him, people who have had their families disrupted and people they love the most hurt or possibly even killed by the man who is now showing up for the church potluck or whatever.

This is not so easy. Conversion is one thing. Repairing our damage is another.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Things you can't not know: 3rd Sunday Easter

It’s real. That’s certainly one of the lessons of this Gospel story. Jesus really rose from the dead. It would be easy enough, and a lot more comfortable, really, if we sort of made a spiritual symbol out of it. And that could easily happen. It’s common enough to “see” someone you’ve lost, especially after a sudden and tragic death, especially in those first days after the loss. You keep glimpsing them in the crowd. They’re there in the corner of your vision, and you whip around to look before remembering it’s impossible. You ‘see them everywhere.’

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Scars: 2nd Sunday Easter 2018

The week I moved into Illinois State University as a nervous and excited seventeen-year-old freshman, our RA (kind of an upper-classman floor leader) started an icebreaker for the guys living on the seventh floor of Atkin Hall. He called it “scar wars.” We went around the circle and when it was your turn you had to show a scar and tell its story. He was a mountain bike racer so he won - no wonder he liked the game. Some of us had a bunch of big scars with big stories, some had none really worth mentioning. I suppose I was in between somewhere.

The guys with big scars - would you expect that they felt embarrassed and ashamed? Like “wow, I really should’ve been more careful so I wouldn’t have these unsightly blemishes on my skin.” On the other hand, were the scar-less young men boasting of their unblemished exterior, and proud to have successfully avoided those injuries? 

Of course not! Exactly the opposite. Those with the biggest scars were most eager to show them. Those who had no scars worth mentioning spoke with noticeable embarrassment.

I remember a sermon by Bishop Bruskewitz in Lincoln, Nebraska. He talked about the moment we stand at the gates of heaven, the moment we stand before the Lord with all our lives and all we are laid bare. Just as Thomas asked to see the scars of Jesus, the Bishop said, what if Jesus asked to see ours? Imagine Jesus telling you, “show me your scars.” And if you have none to show, no scars at the end of your life, can’t you then imagine Jesus asking you, “wasn’t there anything worth fighting for?”

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter 2018

I love how almost anticlimactic it is. “Don’t be amazed. You’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth? He’s not here. He’s been raised. See? Where they laid Him? He went on ahead to Galilee, you’ll see him there, like He told you.”

It is not, if I may insist on precision, a Resurrection story. There are no Resurrection stories in the Bible. There are only stories like this one of Mark’s, of people who showed up just a little late to catch it. This is how the story is told in all four Gospels: Jesus was crucified, He died, they buried Him, and then they went back and He wasn’t there. He’d Risen. And then they started seeing Him around.